Have a Good Night

How to get better, longer sleep-it can help you succeed!

What is quality sleep?  You know it when you wake up:  It’s the feeling your body has had enough time to be truly rested and replenished.  As with eating well and moving more, getting enough sleep contributes to a healthier lifestyle.  Research has shown that regularly getting enough sleep can improve your mood and your overall well being.  While sleep needs vary from person to person- logging seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night seems to be the sweet spot for most adults.  Not only is getting enough sleep good for you, not getting enough sleep has been linked to overeating and weight gain.  Personally I know this to be true, I crave all the sweets and carbs when I haven’t gotten enough sleep.  It’s the worst feeling, you are trying to make up for the sleep deprivation with the very things that make you crash!  They say that inadequate rest can make it harder to stick to a healthy lifestyle too.  Studies have shown that people who sleep six hours or less a night tend to eat more snacks in the evening (me!) and also get in less physical activity the next day.  Plus when you’re exhausted, you’re less likely to want to pack your own lunch or prepare a healthy dinner (also me!).

Weight Watchers Weekly provides a bedtime routine that reminds you that having a routine isn’t just for children, everyone can benefit from a pre-bed schedule.  Here’s what they suggest:
  1. Choose pre-sleep activated that help you wind down to get a better nights sleep.  Some things that you can try:
    1. Turn off the electronics an hour before bed, leave them in another room
    2. Take a warm shower
    3. lay out clothes for the next day
    4. Pack lunch
    5. Brush teeth
    6. Write down three things you’re grateful for
    7. Read a chapter book
    8. Practice meditation or breathing exercise
  2. Choose your bedtime.  Work backward fro your wake-up time and pick a bedtime that allows for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
    1. What time I need to wake up_________
    2. What time I will go to bed _________
    3. How many hours of sleep is this? ____________
  3. Figure out when to start your bedtime routine.  How long will it take me to choose an outfit for tomorrow?  To take a shower?  Make sure you start in early enough to hot the hay at your desired bedtime.
Now I know, some of you are laughing hysterically while reading this.  You’re saying to yourself-I have a family and getting these kids to sleep at a reasonable time is hard enough!  Or my other personal statement of when the kids are asleep I have 5 million other things to do while they’re out of my hair!  HOWEVER!! I have a goal of laying in bed by 10:30 each night and my alarm goes off at 5:50 each morning.  This gives me 7hours and 20minutes of sleep if I hit this goal.  With that said my iPhone tells me that I have averaged 6hours and 54minutes.  Not too shabby!

The Easy Way to Cut Cravings

Feel like inhaling every snack food in sight? Chances are you didn’t get enough sleep last night. Sleep deprivation may trigger cravings by increasing levels of a molecule in your body that makes eating more pleasurable, according to new research presented at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting earlier this month.

For the study, researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine and the Medical College of Wisconsin had nine young, slim, healthy adults spend two six-day stints in a sleep lab. During the first session, they slept 8.5 hours a night—and during the next, they slept just 4.5 hours a night.

The researchers found that the participants’ peak levels of 2-AG—a molecule that influences how much pleasure you get from eating—were 15 percent higher if the subjects were sleep deprived. The molecule is something called an endocannabinoid, which can trigger cravings for calorie-dense foods similar to the munchies caused by marijuana’s cannabinoids, says study author Erin Hanlon, PhD, research associate at the University of Chicago’s section of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism.

“Sleep deficiency influences hedonic mechanisms so that highly palatable or high-reward foods are preferred and consumed,” she says. Translation: Skimp on the shuteye, and you’ll want to load up on high-fat and high-sugar foods the next day.

Previous research shows that sleep deprivation contributes to increased appetite, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. While sleeping fewer than six hours a night spikes hunger by influencing levels of appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, this study explains why junk food might be so hard to resist after a sleep-deprived night—even if you aren’t feeling hungry. Researchers aren’t sure why a lack of shuteye raises 2-AG levels, but they say it could be your body’s way of ensuring you increase your energy (aka calorie) intake to perk up after a less-than-restful night.

According to previous research published in the journal SLEEP, nine hours a night is the optimal amount of sleep when it comes to your waistline. Still, everyone’s exact target number is different, says Nathaniel Watson, MD, MS, co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. Want to find yours? The next chance you get, go to bed when you feel tired and wake up in the morning sans alarm. After a few days of this, calculate the average number of hours you snoozed each night, says Watson. That’s how many you need to stay healthy—and slim.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Published on June 26th, 2013